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TikTok CEO Faces Scrutiny in Senate Hearing on China Ties and Content Policies


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In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Chew faced intense questioning from lawmakers regarding the platform’s ties with China, specifically its parent company ByteDance, and concerns over the extent of access granted to the Chinese government.

During the hearing, Arkansas Republican Sen Tom Cotton raised questions about Chew’s appointment as CEO coinciding with the Chinese Communist Party’s acquisition of a 1% stake in ByteDance’s main Chinese subsidiary. Chew dismissed any connection, stating, “It’s a coincidence.” Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley also pressed Chew on TikTok’s links to China and its communist party.

Texas Republican Sen Ted Cruz inquired about Chew’s characterization of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing as a “massive protest.” Chew’s description, while accurate, omitted the subsequent government crackdown on pro-democracy activists, a dark chapter heavily censored on the Chinese internet today. Under further questioning by Sen Cotton, Chew conceded, referring to the event as “a massacre.”

The questioning reflects growing concerns among lawmakers about the potential influence of the Chinese government on TikTok’s operations and content policies. Despite Chew’s acknowledgment of the Tiananmen Square incident, he had previously assured Congress that TikTok permits content related to it, emphasizing that the platform does not operate within China. However, ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, distributes a similar app called Douyin within China.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing also addressed the potential harms of major tech platforms on teenagers. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a public apology to families affected by the alleged repercussions of social media platforms, acknowledging the pain and suffering they have endured. The CEOs of Snap, X (formerly Twitter), and Discord were also grilled on child safety concerns on their respective platforms.

The tech executives sought to convey their commitment to child safety by emphasizing their roles as parents during the hearing. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel mentioned his wife’s approval of his 13-year-old’s app downloads, TikTok CEO Shou Chew highlighted being a father of three young children, X CEO Linda Yaccarino identified herself as a mother, and Discord CEO Jason Citron emphasized his role as a father of two.